Inside slant: Carolina Week 12 review

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 12's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the Carolina Panthers, who lost to New Orleans on Sunday. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

While he's understandably reluctant to name a starting quarterback, Panthers coach John Fox said that if all goes well this week, Vinny Testaverde will be the guy this week against the San Francisco 49ers.

Testaverde was to start Sunday against New Orleans, but he woke up Saturday morning with a stiff back and could never get it right. Instead, David Carr took his place and the Panthers lost 31-6.

Even though the Panthers are 4-7 and have lost five straight to fall out of playoff contention, Fox doesn't think it's the right time to play Matt Moore, an undrafted rookie.

The coach wants to make sure Moore is fully prepared to start a game and doesn't want to risk ruining his confidence moving forward.

"It's a fine line you walk," Fox said. "There's a certain NFL team sitting there with the No. 1 pick in the draft (DeMarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders) that hasn't had a lot of playing time. Sometimes that (starting a rookie quarterback) might be the worst thing you can do."

Moore has played in five games this season, seeing his most extensive action Sunday. He completed eight of 14 passes for 66 yards with one interception in a 31-6 loss to New Orleans.

For the season, Moore has completed 11 of 22 passes for 145 yards with no touchdown passes and three interceptions, one of those coming on a Hail Mary heave.

"We think he has promise, and he's shown some of those abilities. But we've seen some of the other, too," Fox said.

Fox said he's spoken to Moore and the 23-year-old understands the situation.

"He knows where he is in his development," Fox said. "We actually spent a week prior to the Atlanta game with him going to be the guy. All of a sudden Vinny was available, and we went that route. But he's getting better every day."

Fox regularly points out that Moore didn't attend training camp with the Panthers and didn't join the team until just before the start of the regular season, so he's still very much in the learning phase.

"It's experience," Fox said. "It's one thing in the offseason, it's another thing in practice. The game plays so much faster in games. That was valuable experience for him (Sunday). He made some errors and he made some good throws. That experience helps a young player, no matter what the position, moving forward."

After the game Moore said he feels ready to play.

"I thought there were some good things and some bad things," Moore said. "Any experience is good experience in this league -- whether it be now or later. You just have to be ready when called upon."

It's likely that Carr will serve as Testaverde's backup on Sunday.

"I've got confidence in anybody we put out there," Fox said when asked if he lacks confidence in Carr. "I think obviously we're not doing real well right now with five straight losses. But really maybe the confidence of all of them may be a little shaken, not just the quarterback position."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Panthers DE Mike Rucker was upset over the home crowd's constant booing of QB David Carr and the calls for him to be replaced by rookie backup Matt Moore on Sunday.

"That was tough for me, I'm not going to lie," Rucker said. "Because we're out there together. And he's pouring his heart into this thing and to single out that one guy like that, I was hurt by that.

"We've got to stick together. This is not a happy time for anybody. Definitely the fans deserve better. They deserve wins. They deserve to leave the game happy and have enjoyment. I was hurt about that with Dave, regardless the facts of the matter. He's a teammate, he's fighting. Whether things go his way or our way or not, that's tough. We're human beings.

"Some people might say, 'Hey, you get paid big money to have big shoulders,' and that's true. But at the end of the day, we're humans and people have feelings, too."

--QB David Carr was asked after the game if he feels as if his teammates are losing confidence in him.

"Not really, no," said Carr, who threw for just 95 yards against the league's 28th-ranked pass defense.

"Guys know what goes on. They understand the situation. They understand what goes on on the field. We see the tape. I don't feel that way at all from those guys. Fan-wise, yes. Everyone is feeling that. The guys in the locker room I have no problem with them."

After the game, Vinny Testaverde offered some advice to Carr.

"I told David that I have been through it. Some of the great quarterback go through it -- (Joe) Montana, (Dan) Marino," Testaverde said. "They've all been through it. The guys who survive it are the guys that are mentally tough enough. There are a number of reasons why (the team struggled). You can't put it all on David."

--Testaverde said after the game his back tightened up on him when he woke up Saturday morning. He's had occasional back trouble, but nothing recently.

"I was trying to get some treatment, stretch, ride the bike, do what I could to get it loose," Testaverde said. "You work all week to play on Sunday, and I didn't get that opportunity this week. It's unfortunate. But hopefully next week."

--When asked if he felt as if he waited too long to put Moore in, coach John Fox said no.

"That might be some popularity pool, but he's a young player," Fox said. "We are in the first year of this offense, and he is in his first year of pro football. It was 31-6, and it was time to get him some game reps. That is why he was brought in."

--DL Kindal Moorehead, who doubles as an upback on the kickoff return team, fielded two kickoffs and returned them for a combined 32 yards.

That 16-yard average nearly matched the total of KR DeAngelo Williams, who averaged 17.3 yards per return.

--"We've been there before and we've got the hand we've been dealt. We have two choices -- cry about it or move on. The best avenue to go, in my opinion, is to move on and have some guys play well." -- Coach John Fox.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Chris Gamble should be back this week after missing Sunday's game with a broken thumb.

--RB DeShaun Foster had a 26-yard loss on one play that ruined his rushing average. He finished with nine carries for minus-5 yards.

--WR Dwayne Jarrett was partially responsible for one of David Carr's interceptions because he wasn't where he was supposed to be.

--DE Julius Peppers came up with his first interception Sunday off a pass he tipped.

--KR Ryne Robinson could be back in the kick return role this week. His average is 19.9 yards per return, while DeAngelo Williams' average is 17.3.

REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- David Carr has to be the worst quarterback ever to put on a Panthers uniform -- and folks, that includes Randy Fasani. Granted, you can't pin everything on Carr, but he certainly doesn't help his team, and his teammates don't seem to have any confidence in him. Carr, who got the start only after Vinny Testaverde's back tightened up on him, finished 10 of 22 for 95 yards with two interceptions for a passer rating of ... drum roll, please ... 20.1. Whew, that's bad. Smith led the Panthers with six catches for 47 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- In what has to go down as his worst game as a professional, RB DeShaun Foster was held to minus-5 yards rushing on nine carries and fumbled twice. On one play, he lost 26 yards after fumbling while trying to reverse fields. Things were so bad that Steve Smith, who carried once on a reverse, was the team's leading rusher with 22 yards. As a team, the Panthers had 43 yards on 18 carries and couldn't even pick up a yard on fourth-and-a-foot. DeAngelo Williams had 19 yards on just four carries.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Carolina's pass defense is another story. Playing without CB Chris Gamble, the Panthers really seemed lost and out of place all day long in the secondary. Drew Brees threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. Marques Colston (seven catches, 93 yards) was on the receiving end of one of those scores.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers actually played well against the run, limiting the Saints to 2.9 yards per carry. Remember, they were on the field for a long time. The Saints finished with 113 yards on 39 carries. Aaron Stecker got more carries (13 for 42 yards) than Reggie Bush (nine for 32 yards), who is bothered by a sore ankle. Maake Kemoeatu and Kris Jenkins have been all right in the middle against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The Panthers have found their return man -- Kindal Moorehead, a defensive lineman who had two returns for 32 yards. Believe it or not, that almost matched DeAngelo Williams, who averaged 17.3 yards per return. John Kasay kicked two field goals, but he also booted a kickoff out of bounds. Jason Baker had one bad 32-yard punt.

COACHING: F -- You can't help but feel for coach John Fox, who went through the entire week with Vinny Testaverde as his starting quarterback only to have to change plans on Saturday and go with Carr. You pretty much knew the game was over right there. However, how much of the lack of an offense do you pin on the coaching staff and how much on the players? Regardless, everyone needs to get better.


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